We could start and end this blog post with, simply because we are needed but then that would make us biased so, here we go!
The word ally has a few definitions, but when discussing social justice, an ally is:
- one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.
- a person who is not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but who expresses or gives support to that group.
Thousands of professionals make up the U.S. marketing and public relations industry. In 2020, Labor Force Statistics from the Population Survey found that Black marketers accounted for 6.6% of U.S. employees in the advertising and public relations industry. White marketers accounted for 84.5%, Asian marketers 6%, and Hispanic or Latino marketers 7.6%. Maybe this is surprising to you, perhaps it's not, but one thing for sure is that there is a lack of racial diversity in the industry, and allyship is needed. Regardless of your ethnicity, Black Marketers Association of America is here to provide you with a few ways you can be an ally to black marketers in your organization:
Understand that institutional racism DOES exist and get comfortable talking about it. Institutional racism, also referred to as systemic racism, disadvantages some individuals and groups and can damage their physical and mental health. It is a form of racism that, unfortunately, has been built into our society throughout history. It exists whether you are comfortable with it or not; facing that discomfort will help you confront it in the industry.
Take the first step in confronting institutional racism by educating yourself on what racism is. By learning what racism is, even if you believe you have never personally witnessed it yourself, you can better recognize how society has created disadvantages for the black community. Educator Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, has noticed from her 20 years of experience that “white people are sensationally, histrionically bad at discussing racism.” When getting defensive and trying to set yourself apart from the “bad apples,” you only ignore that racism is real and still an issue today.
Check your prejudices and microaggressions. You may not be aware of how your words and actions can make your black marketing peers feel. Unfortunately, 43% of Black executives have had colleagues use racially insensitive language in their presence, and black professionals are more likely to encounter racial prejudice and microaggressions than any other racial or ethnic group. Some examples of microaggressions often made towards black professionals include "You are so articulate/speak so well. "I'm not racist, I have black friends." and tone policing comments such as "You are so aggressive." Microagressions can be unintentional, but the harmful impact they have is still the same.
As an ally, if you notice microaggressions taking place, speak up. While this does not mean speaking for the target of the microaggression, it means acknowledging that the comment or action is offensive and explaining why. If you commit a microaggression, be open to being educated when told why and how it is considered offensive. As you know, words can have a powerful meaning. Recognizing harmful language and behaviors used in your organization and work creates an environment that is truly safe and inclusive.
Know that black is not a monolith. Regardless of race, none of us has lived the same experience. People, especially black people, come from diverse backgrounds, with different expectations and perspectives that may introduce you to something you weren’t aware of before. Growing up myself, I have found non-black associates surprised to hear that I did not grow up in Brooklyn, where I was born and lived later in life, but instead, a small city in upstate New York called Schenectady. Not all of us have grown up in the inner city or another region, like Africa or the Caribbean. Some of us have grown up in small towns and suburbs and come from other countries like the U.K or Italy and even Spain. The black community is full of diversity, we’re all unique individuals, and these differences can bring value to an organization and campaigns if you listen to our ideas.
Provide black marketers with real opportunities. Social impact organization Hue and The Harris Poll found that marketers were two times more likely to report that their employer has not addressed the recruitment, visibility, or access to opportunities for BIPOC. These findings are even more disheartening, knowing the racial pay gap alone has put black workers at a disadvantage. According to a study on the representation of African-Americans in the advertising industry, the research firm Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants “found that African-American professionals in the ad industry face dramatic bias in pay, hiring, assignments, and promotions.” So, ask yourself, why should black marketing professionals feel unseen and underpaid when having black marketers on your team is beneficial to your agency and brands? By being a better ally, you must be willing to empower your black peers and their professional development and pay them their worth.
Being an ally is more than a moment of silence in the office to acknowledge those killed due to police brutality or officially recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. To be a better ally now and in the future means listening and genuinely supporting black marketers' advancement in the workplace. Instead of getting defensive when it comes to race, value the perspective it brings to your team. It means to value black people, period.
Ready to reach your DE&I goals? Learn more about partnering with BMAA today by visiting portal.blackmarketers.org/store. If you have any questions, contact our Partnership Director at firstname.lastname@example.org today.